May 21, 2015

Laszlo Krasznahorkai wins Man Booker International Prize


Laszlo Krasnarhorkai, who I've always thought looks like he should be playing bass in a prog rock band. (image via The Man Booker Prize)

Laszlo Krasnarhorkai, who I’ve always thought looks like he should be playing bass in a prog rock band. (image via The Man Booker Prize)

On Tuesday, the Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai was awarded the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. Krasznahorkai is the author of a seven novels, four of which—SatantangoThe Melancholy of ResistanceWar and War, and Seibo Down Below—are available in English, and a number of shorter works, most notably Animalinside, a collection of prose featuring images by Max Neumann. He is also well-known for his frequent collaborations with  filmmaker (and fellow Hungarian/genius) Bela Tar. The two have worked together on a number of projects, with Krasznahorkai writing and Tar directing, including adaptations of several of Krasznahorkai’s novels.

Unlike the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, The Man Booker International Prize is given for in recognition of an author’s entire “body of work, rather than a single novel.” The prize is worth £60,000 and is awarded every other year “to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language.” The award also contains a supplementary £15,000 translator’s prize; that award will be distributed between translators George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet. The nine other writers on this year’s longlist were: César Aira (Argentina), Hoda Barakat (Lebanon), Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe), Mia Couto (Mozambique), Amitav Ghosh (India), Fanny Howe (United States of America), Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya), Alain Mabanckou (Republic of Congo), and Marlene van Niekerk (South Africa).

Krasznahorkai was recognized for his “visionary” work by Marina Warner, who announced the award:

“László Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful. The Melancholy of ResistanceSatantango and Seiobo There Below are magnificent works of deep imagination and complex passions, in which the human comedy verges painfully onto transcendence. Krasznahorkai, who writes in Hungarian, has been superbly served by his translators, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet.”

As reported by The Bookseller, Krasznahorkai’s acceptance speech sounds incredible:

“In an entertaining acceptance speech, Krasznahorkai expressed his “big surprise” at his win, and offered up a list of thanks to individuals living and dead, from the schoolteacher who taught him Greek and Latin to his first and second wives, Kafka and Dostoevsky, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, David Bowie and Thelonius Monk, his US, English and German publishers, Peter Straus, the city of Kyoto, Johann Sebastian Bach, “my translators, with grateful affection,” Prince Siddhartha, the Hungarian language, and God.”

Below, check out an interview between Krasznahorkai, his translator, the poet George Szirtes, and critic James Wood

Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.